Thursday, 1 August 2019

Nickelodeon Explains The Art of The Pitch

David Steinberg at Annecy
Animation veteran David Steinberg from Nickelodeon made a great presentation at this year's Annecy animation festival, on how to pitch animation ideas to Nickelodeon.

Nickelodeon (known as "Nick") does most of its design and creation in house, but the "meat and potatoes" of animation is usually subcontracted out to other studios, often overseas, around the world.

Our animation students at Bucks don't just learn how to be competent, industry-ready animators. They also learn creativity, and how to generate ideas. After all, it's up to our students to create the next big thing - the next Peppa Pig or Bob the Builder.  Animation is about stories, characters, and creativity.  So, what does Nickelodeon ("Nick", for short) look for in an animation pitch?

Pitching to Nickelodeon
Nickelodeon creates a huge amount of animated content, such as Paw Patrol, Spongebob, and many others, in all kinds of different styles. The distinction between 2D and 3D has become very blurred; nowadays "it's just one big toolbox".

Nickelodeon doesn't always look for polished pitches - there are no rules. Some people come with a polished piece of animation, but Nick also look for imaginative pitches which simply have "a great idea for a character which can spawn hundreds of stories".

Nick are moving away from "fully animated pilots", as it takes such a long time. But they still do a short one minute test to see how the series will look, including (of course) an animation bible.

Ariel Goldberg
Careers at Nickelodeon
Ariel Goldberg, recruiter for Nickelodeon, suggested that students looking for work at Nickelodeon should focus on "quality over quantity" when presenting their work, and he also identified some useful career paths into the industry.

One entry level job is script editor, and this can lead to being a full-fledged writer, and eventually to being (potentially) a show-runner.  Starting as a production assistant can lead eventually to being a creative producer.

Beginning work as a storyboard artist can lead to becoming a director.  These are all well-tested paths into the industry.

Alex Williams, Eric Goosen, Anjie Wojac, Megan Nairn, Ariel Goldberg, Ryan Howe
Don't plagiarise
Ariel also cautioned students against plagiarism or imitation. Nickelodeon is looking for student work which is not derivative. Ariel looks for talent which is new and fresh - but also marketable.

One audience member asked "how long does Ariel look at an individual portfolio?" "Have a guess", he replied. "Five minutes", came the answer from one audience member. "Actually", he responded, "it's just seven seconds" (gasp!). After all, he said "five minutes is a long time. If I'm looking at a portfolio for five minutes, that means I love it and I'll probably pass them on to a producer or director".

This means, of course, you have just seven seconds to impress.  So only include your best work.

Nickelodeon house style
Ariel added that one of the most important things he looks for in a portfolio is the right kind of work for Nickelodeon. If you do "post apocalyptic creature art", don't send that to Nickelodeon - that's not what they do. So consider breaking up your blog or Tumbler into sections, with different styles in different areas.

For more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days,  take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK.

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